Posted on November 5, 2021

NBA Launches Investigation Into Suns Owner Robert Sarver Over Claims of Racism

Annika Kim Constantino, CNBC, November 4, 2021

The National Basketball Association launched a formal investigation into the Phoenix Suns and owner Robert Sarver following allegations of racism and misogyny in an ESPN report published Thursday.

“The allegations contained in today’s ESPN article are extremely serious, and we have directed the Wachtell Lipton law firm to commence a comprehensive investigation,” the NBA said in a statement Thursday.


The investigation comes after a long-awaited ESPN report that featured multiple allegations of racism and misogyny against Sarver during his 17-year tenure as the Suns owner. ESPN’s reporting was based on interviews with over 70 current and former Suns employees.

In anticipation of the report, the Suns in October denied that Sarver was racist and sexist.

Sarver denied the allegations Thursday, calling the report “inaccurate and misleading,” according to NBC Sports. He also welcomed the investigation being launched by the league.


Among the accusations in the ESPN report was Sarver’s alleged use of the N-word around coaches and players on several occasions.

In one such instance, Sarver allegedly used the word during a conversation with Watson about Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green after a game in 2016, according to the report. Watson said he repeatedly told Sarver not to use the word, ESPN reported.

Sarver, who purchased the Suns in 2004 for a record $401 million at the time, denied allegations about his use of the N-word to ESPN.

“I’ve never called anyone or any group of people the N-word, or referred to anyone or any group of people by the N-word, either verbally or in writing,” Sarver told ESPN through his legal team. “I don’t use that word. It is abhorrent and ugly and denigrating and against everything I believe in.”

Other allegations in the ESPN report involve alleged misogynistic and inappropriate conduct.


Recent allegations of both racism and sexism among NBA executives has resulted in a wide range of consequences. In 2014, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned for life by the NBA and fined $2.5 million after audio of him leaked in which he made racist comments.


Earlier Thursday, Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi offered support for a potential probe into Sarver.


Najafi has recently pursued racial diversity and equity efforts following the racial justice protests of 2020.

In February, Najafi teamed up with former NFL star and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick to launch Mission Advancement, a special purpose acquisition company with a commitment to diversity and equity, according to the Seattle Times. {snip}